I'm not Gleek (a term to describe Glee fanatics of the show), but last night's episode was a telling snapshot of spirituality in this current generation. It all started when a character from the show, Finn, makes a grilled cheese in which suddenly he suddenly sees the face of Jesus in the bread. The "Grilled Cheesus". He begins to pray to the Grilled Cheesus, which is a whole misguided fiasco in and of itself. At the same time, Kurt, another student's father is lying comatose in a hospital bed. Kurt is gay and a self-proclaimed atheist. And while the other students share Finn's gravitational pull into spirituality through Kurt's crisis, Kurt doesn't share the same sentiment. Having sensed this, Sue Sylvester (the resident self-serving Cheerio coach) descends on Kurt in a vulnerable moment to get him to lodge a complaint againts the glee club for singing spiritual songs at school-their way of dealing with all thats going on with Finn, Kurt, and especially their way of trying to be there for Kurt. Another episode all over the place, but then all of them are.
Embedded in this episode are all kinds of indicators of the spiritual climate of our students today. Finn's prayers are all self-serving (from making quarterback on the football team again to making out with his girlfriend Rachel) and are steeped in the Moralistic Therapuetic Deism that is indicative of student cultute today. MTD's basic belief system is one we see creep even into the beliefs of our Christian students today - God created things and watches over us and the world; He wants people to be nice, fair, not fight and get along like the Bible and most of the world's religions would say (thus the Christianity confusion we see in alot of students today and the relative idea all religions lead to the same place); The basic goal in life is to be happy and feel good about one's self; God really doesn't get involved in things unless he needs to fix a problem or provide something for us we want (the brunt of Finn's interaction with Grilled Cheesus); and Good people go to heaven when they die.
On top of the examples of MTD, we also see in the episode the conflict with other faith systems (Judaism, Sikism, Islam), unbelief, and antagonism toward and disappointment with the God of the Christian faith. All Kurt's friends want to do is be there for him, and he eventually sees this and warms back up to their help and their prayers. He even agrees to go to church with Mercedes, a traditional black church in which she encourages members prayers that day to be interceding for Kurt's father. As the episode began to wind down, I noticed one thing. No matter where the different characters fell on the spiritual spectrum during the hour, in true Hollywood fashion toward the end of the show, they gravitated toward one thing everyone so desperately wants: Hope. Now understand me, the show was definitely not giving a nod toward Christianity. If anything, it applauded the religious pluralism and unity this generation is embracing. But, for us believers who work with students, we need to help them understand that Hope is the what the Christian faith is all about and what sets it apart from every other faith system and belief that is out there. A God who created us to be in relationship with him gives us hope. The cross and it's significance is all about hope. The resurrection more than anything bleeds hope.
I'm not saying Hollywood has turned a corner in their view or thoughts on God. They are still very propagandish (is that a word?). But shows like Glee, which students in your youth groups and mine are watching, are helping to educate our students, even Christian ones, in a false Gospel and a false hope. They are also great windows into the soul of our student's culture to help us stay on top of their pulse. Use them to start discussions with your students on the character, attributes, and mission of the one true God so they will be equipped to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15). It's good homework for you to.